Defending champion Pakistan is in the final of ICC Asia Cricket Cup 2014, after defeating host Bangladesh by three wickets. They will play the final against Sri Lanka at the same venue on Saturday. Pakistan opened their campaign by suffering a close loss to Sri Lanka, though the Pakistan cricket team won their second encounter against the newcomers Afghanistan, but it was a lackluster performance. The turning point in the tournament was their nail-biting win over archrival India. This win seems to have given the Pakistan cricket team the much-needed boost and confidence to play to their full potential.
As in the match against the Indians, this one against Bangladesh Shahid “Boom Boom” Afridi was instrumental in snatching this crucial win from the jaws of defeat. Afridi hit two huge sixes in the last over of the match, on the third and the fourth balls of the over to overhaul the target of 265 runs set by the Indian batsman. In the match against Bangladesh, it was once again the stunning and crowd-silencing batting by Afridi that ensured Paskistan would play the Saturday final against Sri Lanka.
In this semi-final of sorts, Afridi made 50 runs in 18 balls, including seven sixes and two boundaries (4-runs). The second fastest 50 in a One Day International (ODI) is by Sangakara, the Sri Lankan wicket-keeper batsman. He made 50 runs or, more appropriately, half a century, in cricketing terms, of 17 balls, against Pakistan in 1996.
The other highlights of the match against ICC Asia Cricket Cup 2014 host Bangladesh were a solid century (100-runs) by Ahmed Shehzad of 123-balls, 70 runs of 74-balls by middle-order batsman Fawad Alam and the winning four runs scored by Umar Akmal. This just may assure Pakistan a win in the final of the Asia Cricket Cup 2014.
A strange incident in the match was eight runs of the bowling of the spinner Abdul Rehman, without bowling a delivery. His first delivery was a high full toss, declared a no-ball by the umpire. On his second delivery, he got the wicket of the Bangladesh batsman, but it was judged as a waist-high full toss that is another no-ball, and the batsman was declared not out. His third delivery, which was also a full toss, was dispatched for a four. In addition, the umpire asked the Pakistani skipper to take him out of the attack for bowling three illegitimate deliveries at a trot.
Earlier, while batting first, Bangladesh batsmen made a daunting 326 runs for the loss of three wickets. This is the highest total Pakistan has ever chased down, thanks to the superb batting by Shehzad who set the tone, Alam who continued the momentum forward and Afridi who played a blistering knock. Afridi’s knock left the jubilant filled-to-capacity stadium of the home crowd dumbstruck. The Pakistan cricket team also made a new record by chasing down the huge total. Previously, the highest run chase by Pakistan was 223-runs against India in Mohali.
The last two matches show the Pakistan cricket team has regained the essential self-belief that they can defeat any opposition. This will help them perform to their potential in the final of the ICC Asia Cricket Cup 2014 against Sri Lanka.
By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada